The refuge is 2, 277 acres in total, made up of 1,883 acres of mixed deciduous upland forest, 364 acres of palustrine and riverine (PDF 60 Kb) wetlands, 15 acres of grasslands, 10 acres of brush, and 5 acres of administrative buildings, parking and roads.
Management of this refuge focuses on providing the habitat needs of key Federal trust species and groups of species: most notably, bald eagles, and other migratory birds. As feasible, we actively intervene, restore, and manipulate ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species to meet our responsibilities to benefit Service trust resources. Our primary tools are invasive species control, moist-soil management (water-level manipulation), and cropland management (mowing). One way we intervene is through the control and eradication of invasive/alien plants and the management of injurious/exotic insect and wildlife species. We also adjust the water levels at two impoundments on the refuge to control plant growth within the wetlands and to provide a source of food for young herons and eagles. Mowing, using tractors with large mowers, is a third tool used to manipulate habtiat for trust species.
Thirty-six species of trees have been recorded on the refuge. Upland hardwood forest (1,883 acres) is the predominant vegetative type on the refuge and the peninsula. The dominant deciduous species (trees that have broad leaves and loose leaves in the fall) in the upland forest include: white oak, chestnut oak, scarlet oak, northern red oak, and southern red oak.. Other overstory species include mockernut hickory, shagbark hickory, yellow poplar, sycamore, American beech, and red maple. The dominant understory species include American holly, flowering dogwood (the State tree of Virginia), and shrubs such as deerberry and mountain laurel.
Virginia pine is the most common coniferous species and is widely scattered throughout the deciduous upland forest, where it sometimes occurs in small clumps and is usually found along the wetland edges. Other conifers include loblolly pine, eastern redcedar, and shortleaf pine.
The small whorled pogonia, a Federally-listed plant species, has been found south and north of the refuge but not on the refuge itself. Habitat for this plant is present but the deer population may be impacting this species.
Only about 15 acres of grasslands remain on the refuge. During colonial times and up to the early 1900s, numerous acres were used for agriculture (crops and dairy) and logging. Natural succession has converted the grasslands into hardwood forests leaving a monotypic habitat of mixed hardwoods with small patches of conifers. Most of the refuge has not been logged in the last 40-50 years and some areas on the refuge have stands of 100+-year-old trees.
Grassland management activities are directed at rotational and cyclical mowing of designated fields. One-third (approximately two acres) of the environmental education field is mowed annually as part of a three-year rotational strip mowing program designed for educational interpretation and habitat diversity.